From Adewale Sanyaolu
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has warned Nigeria’s eleven electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) that it would no longer tolerate the huge estimated billing being charged to consumers.
The Commission also cited the poor service delivery of DisCos, saying it has left most consumers frustrated, with the majority resorting to private solutions.
FCCPC Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO Mr Babatunde Irukera handed down the warning at the FCCPC Electricity Consumer Complaint Resolution Platform for Eko and Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, which commenced in Lagos on Monday and ends on Friday.
Irukera said a situation where consumers are made to pay above their consumption would be resisted, saying the agency has been inundated with complaints from electricity consumers across the country.
He charged the DisCos to be sensitive to the plight of consumers, adding that the immediate challenge of the DisCos is not about inadequate supply to consumers but the lack of transparency in their day to day dealings with customers.
He decried the huge level of complaints emanating from the power sector, saying of all the sectors regulated by FCCPC, DisCo complaints top the list.
‘It is worrisome that the majority of the issues we attend to are from the power sector. That tells you that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. And not until the root cause of the issue is addressed, we may not get out of the woods,’ Irukera stated.
If I may ask, why should it be FCCPC that would bring both consumers and DisCos together in a bid to resolve issues? This should not be the norm. DisCos on their own should regularly engage consumers in a bid to addressing their complaints.
The FCCPC boss said unmetered customers have a right to withhold payment of disputed bills and pay only the last agreed bill pending resolution by the DisCo or Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Irukera charged the DisCos to improve on service delivery, including the turnaround time for complaints resolution, stressing that when complaints are left unresolved for a longer period, the tendency for a customer to get agitated is almost certain.
Regrettably, he said, FCCPC is only a mediator because it lacks the power to turn on and off electricity and also lacks the power to reverse bills but can only follow up to ensure that consumer complaints are addressed.
Also speaking, Deputy General Manager, Consumer Services, NERC, Shittu Shaibu, said that the federal government is doing all it can to ensure that issues around estimated billing are resolved once and for all.
He said this informed its intervention through the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) bankrolled by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), which targets to meter six million customers over the next 18-36 months across the country.
Shaibu said consumers should ensure to demand their right, saying a customer who has been wrongly or illegally disconnected is meant to be compensated by the DisCos for the numbers of days such disconnection is in force.
He explained that the NERC forum offices have been established in the 36 States of the country to address various consumer breaches which infringe on their rights.